So, the short version of the story is, the place I used to use my torch (hothead torch with mapp gas, small container--1 lb) is no longer available to me and I need somewhere else to work.
I rent a teeny apartment with my partner (less than 500 square feet) in a former farmhouse--lots of old, dry wood and probably horsehair or newspaper for insulation. No room for a permanent setup in the apartment. Previously I was using a stripped down ironing board (all metal, cloth & padding gone) to clamp my torch on. I could fold it up when I was done and tuck it in a closet. Is it safe to work in a space like that? Does anyone else work directly inside a living space (i.e. not in a dedicated craft/glass/work room?) Any suggestions for safety? What to move out of the way, what to have on hand, etc?
If not, my budget is too tight to allow me to rent time/space anywhere, so that's out. Any other suggestions? The weather/climate wouldn't allow work outside. I don't have access to the garage, can't construct a structure (temporary or not) and the basement has a furnace or water heater in nearly every corner and is damp and full of spiders (stupid phobias) to boot.
The lampworking bug has bitten me many times over the past few years but now worse than ever. I want to play with glass again!
There are "products of combustion", like gasses created when the glass melts. You want to be sure to have good ventilation when working with a torch, especially in a small space. Seems the option would be to stand at the stove, and use the stove vent...unless you have a gas stove. You would want a fire extinguisher on hand, anyone that is torching should. Someone suggested plywood or tile on the floor. I would suggest getting some cement board. It's heavy, certainly on par with plywood, but it is flame resistant. I used it to protect the wall where I torched once.
You really need good ventilation, and that is the biggest obstacle from what I can see.
The suggestion to find a friend who will let you set up in their dry, spider free space, seems like the best one, but I feel for you.
I did torch in my dining room for about a year, back when I first started. I used a box fan in the window facing out, I set up at my table, in front of the window. We had laminate flooring. It wasn't ideal, and i wouldn't recommend it, knowing what I know now. I had just started. It's a great hobby, but unfortunately it's not something that can be done just anywhere.
You can start with a "hot head" torch, which uses Mapp gas that can be picked up at your Local Home Depot type store. It is noisy, and doesn't get as hot as the oxygen/propane mix torches, because it doesn't have the oxygen to give it a kick. It doesn't burn as clean either, but for the most part it's a great way to begin as it's in the $30.00 price range and the fuel is fairly easy to get.
Many people wouldn't dream of ever giving up their hot head, and love them to pieces. Though most people will eventually graduate to an oxygen propane torch. That will be about $125 minimum, for just the torch. If you are running it with propane and oxygen, which is what is recommended, you will need a propane tank (about $30 depending on where you live in the country), a regulator for the propane, and then an oxygen tank, which you would need to rent from your local welding supply place (usually the easiest place to find them for rent). The tanks range in price but are more expensive then the propane. You will need a regulator for that too. Flashback arrestors are recommended for both oxy and propane, to insure the gases flow in only one direction and some freak thing doesn't cause the flame to be sucked into the tank. Rare that would happen, but if it does, there is no going back.
You can get an oxygen concentrator, which eliminates the need for a oxygen regulator or flashback arrestor. They are found used online for about $350 or more. They are generally refurbished Medical use concentrators. They are a great alternative to pay for oxygen, and if you torch more then a couple hours a week, you will pay for it in a matter of months with the amount you will save from not buying oxygen.
If all that sound like too much to start, go with the hot head.
You need glasses. Didydium at the very least, but I recommend AuraLens (the company who sells glasses and has other grades of protection). These glasses are designed to filter the light that can damage your eyes. They are not the same as welders glasses, but are similar in what they do, they just protect from a different spectrum of light.
Ventilation is important. Lampworking is an AWESOME hobby/craft but it is a serious one. You are best to research on some of the other forums that are more dedicated to the craft. This forum seems great, but has a wide range of glass artists, and not all glass art requires the same safety precautions.
Glass, Moretti is the least expensive and most readily available. It has a wide color palate is a stable glass that is compatible within it's line, which some other lines can have different COE's (Coefficient of Expansion, or the rate at which the glass cools from the molten state. If glasses do not have the same COE they will cause the bead to crack because they are pulling away from each other as their cool at different rates), within their line meaning you need to have more experience to know which colors work together. When you are learning you don't want the added hassle of keeping all that straight. For that reason I recommend Moretti. Arrow Springs, as mentioned by someone else carries it as well as Delphi, and Frantz Art Glass, and a myriad of other glass sellers. It's imported from Italy and is a tried and true line of glass.
The kiln is optional, as a beginner, but you will need one if you want to sell your work. When glass heats it becomes stressed. When you work it in the flame it's temp fluctuates, getting it more stressed. A kiln is basically a Calgon bath for your glass. It soaks in there and lets all the stress just be wisked away...then the temp is brought down slowly so you are not introducing more stress as it cools. The stress is what causes cracking. The Kiln is what keeps the cracking from happening. Not all beads will crack, but if you are going to sell your work you don't want to risk it. Until you get to the point you want to wear, or give away, or sell your work, the kiln is really optional. If what you have a kiln that will reach 950 degrees and can be programmed to cool off slowly, the kiln will work for glass. What makes a glass kiln better is it is usually easily accessible while you are working. It has a door of some sort so you can add beads as you work. If it lacks a door, you can still use it, but you will want to do what is called batch annealing. That is when you make beads, put them between layers of a fiber blanket (available where you buy your glass/torch/etc). When you are done working, you can lay all your beads in the cold kiln, ramp it up slowly to temp, hold for 1 hour or so, then slowly drop the temp over several hours. This way the beads are annealed and strong, because they are stress free.
Okay, it's late, I'm going to bed, but I hope this helped. It's a great and fun craft, so I hope I haven't scared you off with too much information! Good luck!